Have you ever been scrolling Netflix and come across something that looks so dumb ———————– that you had to watch it! I wasted 20 minutes of my life on the documentary, Behind the Curve. Behind the Curve is about people who believe that the earth is flat. Despite all of the data we have from satellites in orbit, the eyewitness accounts of astronauts in orbit, the evidence of physics, or our mapping of the globe, there are some who insist that it is all nothing more than a conspiracy to convince us that our planet is round rather than flat.
The film begins with a guy walking on a beach somewhere near Seattle explaining that you and I live in something like a giant sound stage, something more akin to the Truman Show, rather than on a round rock in a solar system. It is 95 minutes of total ridiculous! My advice is to watch the first 20 minutes for the comedy of it. When your head feels like it is about to explode from the insanity, move on to something more productive like clipping your nails, grating cheese, or learning how toast is made.
As ridiculous as it is to believe that the Earth is flat, so it is to believe that your life should be perfect. As ridiculous as it is to believe that you and I are living in a Truman-esque sound stage, so it is to believe that you can do it all, fix it all, know it all, and control it all.
Many are living beneath the crushing weight of unrealistic expectations and missing the beauty of an eternal God working in our everyday.
Our unrealistic expectations come from the overreach of an otherwise healthy desire. In Ecclesiastes 3:11 Solomon says about God, “He put eternity into man’s heart.” That’s an amazing statement. What does it mean?
“He put eternity into man’s heart” is an important statement about our nature. God has created us as eternal creatures. You and I know we are going to die, but isn’t there also a sense in you that life is never going to end? Weird isn’t it!
“He put eternity in man’s heart” also explains our desire for that “paradise lost” where everything is complete, where things are fixed, where we do understand, and where everything is under control. The eternity he put into our hearts is like a fading memory of a place we have never been, but of a
Our return to paradise lost is a healthy desire, but it is an unrealistic expectation if we do not accept the statement that follows in Ecclesiastes 3:11,“He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.“
A perfect world may be our desire, but it cannot be our expectation – at least not now. The fall of man into sin has ruined our world and clouded our judgment (Gen. 3). We may be eternal, but because we are sinful we need to know our limitations. Some things we can’t “find out” or figure out. Unfortunately, it means that some questions God doesn’t answer. Some mysteries will remain hidden. “Yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” also means that God is perfectly fine with you – like this – for now.
The earth is not flat. Your life is not perfect. It is what it is. And that’s good theology!
Take a deep breath, there is hope! The liberating piece of the passage comes in the statement that precedes our frustration with unrealistic expectation. “He has made everything beautiful in its time (Ecc. 3:11a).” We are not left alone. The eternal God is working in our everyday.
“HE” makes everything beautiful in its time brings us to the most freeing, stress relieving, joyous of conclusions – IT’S NOT ABOUT ME! In its time means that if I can learn to deal with life as it is, as it comes – if I could learn the value of dealing the immediate and not trying to be or do or determine the ultimate – it’s a beautiful thing!
How did Solomon arrive at this most liberating conclusion? He explains in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
I Can’t Do It All – Know My Season
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 articulates an inescapable truth of life; nothing remains the same. “For EVERYTHING there is a season and a time for EVERY matter under heaven.”
This is most unfortunate for the mother of a 15 year old who still parents like the child is 5. This is a difficult truth for those who can’t move on after something or someone is gone.
It also explains why it is frustrating for the guy who is conflicted between being the perfect dad while also attempting to be a
Observing the principle of seasons will help you enjoy what is truly beautiful in its time.
- Seasons come naturally, not selectively. You don’t choose seasons, they just happen. We all have our favorite seasons, but we can’t extend them or choose them to the exclusion of others. You can’t deny winter simply because it is cold. You may love summer, but you look strange in the dead of winter wearing shorts. Wearing shorts in the winter is not only bad fashion, but it is a
badstrategy. But think of how many decisions we make, in our feeble attempt to do it all, that are like wearing a winter coat in the middle of July. So many things that fill us with frustration are simply the right thing at the wrong time.
- Certain things only happen in certain seasons. I talked about this in my book The Walk (now only $14.99 on Amazon! Shameless plug!). The grocery store is deceptive. Those strawberries you bought for your cake at Christmas, those weren’t picked in Georgia. Those berries are from Argentina, not Ellijay! For those of us trying to rush it along, grow them up way too fast, get more out of it – long before it’s in
season– all you are going to do is crush it. As a matter of creation, God put in us a desire to be fruitful. If you follow Christ, the desire to be fruitful is also a matter of mission. But realize that fruitfulness is not a matter of constancy (as in it can happen all of the time). Fruitfulness is a matter of consistency. Fruitfulness comes after ripening. Before ripening there was trimming. Before trimming there was fertilizing – and planting, and working and so on and so forth. And oh yes, let’s not forget that in bearing fruit there is also a season of dormancy. It is very difficult for a perfectionist to simply leave soemthing alone. But we all know that sometimes the most important part of maturing is not what is happening to you as much as it is what is happening in you. How many matters of life would be so much less frustrating if we were not out there holding bushel baskets ready to pick off of leafless trees during the dormant season? There is an important season in which you may just need to leave it alone!
- All God expects is for you to steward the season. If you observe the season you will know best how to work it and what to expect from it. In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 there are times to plant but also times to pluck. There are times to save and times to spend. That’s incredibly frustrating if you’re trying to save money but can’t understand you’re always having to pay for repairs. Saving money is essential, but you can’t neglect what you have along the way. Maybe that business was booming, but now, not so much. Maybe instead of getting depressed its time to dig down deep, restructure, re-strategize, reorganize. Work this season and enjoy it! Perhaps the next one will be even more fruitful than before.
“It’s not about me” is the realization that life changes. It is understanding that sometimes it is less about talent and more about timing. It is about realizing that in the current season I need to do THIS and not all of THAT. If “it’s not about me” I can do THIS for NOW and I can do it with JOY. The rest of it will have to wait for a season of its own. Everything is beautiful in its time.
I Can’t Fix It All – Know My Situation
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 reveals another important principle of seasons. In every season there is good and bad. Every season has its problems.
On March 13, 2019, Facebook went down for about 4 hours. So for about 4 hours on a Wednesday afternoon, most of the world did not know what to do.
At the time of the outage, I was trying to post some information about our upcoming Bible study at Liberty. Like a billion other people, I got frustrated by the outage. Trying to figure out what was going on I began to scan media outlets to see if they were reporting on any FB outages. The headlines were telling. Major news sources were using the word “panic” in the leads to the story. Some sources were even reporting on the possibility of terrorists hacking into servers in Europe. My favorite headline read, “Facebook Outage: Tell Your Grandma Not to Panic.”
I wonder how many people sat in front of a computer or made a million pointless attempts on their phone to refresh Facebook and solve the problem? There is no doubt that there was a lot of wasted time and mounting frustration. But the real problem was not that Facebook was down. The real problem was in the countless millions of us who could not understand the situation – you don’t solve a global social media outage with your refresh button :). There is no magic “refresh” button that can fix people or fix all of your problems. Know the situation – it’s not about you – move on to something else.
In every season there will be situations – both good and bad. Knowing the situation can bring sweet release to those who feel the incessant need for perfection. Here are three critical principles of situations:
- Not every situation is your fault. When things go wrong we often wonder what we did wrong. We wonder “why?” Why does God hate me? Why is God out to get me? What did I do to deserve this? The answer may very well be – nothing! Life is unfair. There are victims. People make choices that may cause you problems. Some of these choices will be made today. Some of them may have been made long before you were even born. Where there are people, there will be problems. What “they” do may negatively affect you, but remember, it’s not about you!
- Some situations are your fault. And then there are times when we need to admit, “I am the problem.” When we are willing to admit that we are the problem, we want the problem solved quickly. That may or may not happen. Look at Ecc. 3:1-8. There is a time to build up, but it may be time to tear down. Just because you are still suffering the consequences doesn’t mean you are doing the wrong thing, it just means you did a dumb thing. Deal with it. This situation may very well be your season. But remember; seasons pass.
- Some people are not yours to fix. It is one thing to deal with your own incessant need for perfection, it is quite another to impose that need on others. Unrealistic expectations will crush you. Why invite someone else into the press? The perfectionist mentality is hard on a marriage. It is not healthy for parenting. Perfectionists are difficult to work with or work for. Remember the verse “HE has made everything beautiful in IT’S time.” God did not put you on the planet to fix it for Him.
The amazing thing about knowing Christ is the realization that problems become purposeful. Romans 8:28 turns a world filled with problems into something with incredible purpose.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28
“It’s not about me” is the realization that there will be problems and that I may not be the solution – or at least my incessant need of perfection is not the solution. Release and relief comes in realizing that there is good and bad in every season. Problems are natural, not vindictive. This is not God out to get me – it’s just me and a world full of people. “It’s not about me” is the acceptance that God’s grace is much better for the world than my incessant need of perfection.
I Can’t Understand/Control It All – Know The Sovereign
In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 there are listed a lot of things we would not choose, a lot of things we do not enjoy, and a lot of things we do not understand. We would not choose to die, to pluck, to kill, to break down, to weep, or to mourn. We had rather have life full of planting, healing, building up, laughing, and dancing. Unfortunately, we don’t always have a choice.
And when we don’t seem to have a choice – well – that is what we don’t understand.
As ugly as those “would not choose” items seem, even they are included in “He makes everything beautiful in its time.” That is beyond my ability to explain, but it has not been beyond my experience.
My father died the day before my 44th birthday. He was an active, athletic man. He was a great dad. The final five years of his life we spent watching his vigor and strength drain away. For five years we watched him die with the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease.
The week we realized he would not last much longer, it was like God hit the pause button. I am a pastor. There is no pause button. But for that week it was like God gave me a supernatural release. I went home to be with my parents. And as odd as this may sound, it was one of the most horrible and wonderful weeks of my life.
There was so much ugliness in watching my dad struggle to breathe. There was so much beauty in watching my mother fulfill the vows she had made to him 47 years ago. It was awful to watch him suffer. It was amazing to listen to my oldest daughter sit on the end of his bed and share with him all of her hopes, plans, and dreams. For thirty minutes she talked and for the only thirty minutes that week he opened his eyes, smiled, and stared at her. I am fully convinced he took in every word she said. Physically he was a horrible mess. That conversation was a beautiful thing.
Our eternal God was working in our everyday. We were nearing the hardest moment of a long difficult season, but it was a beautiful thing.
I’ll never forget. It was in the early morning hours. We were so tired and my mother and I had just tried to go to bed. It was not long before she opened my bedroom door and said softly, “He’s gone
Every day I replay the scene of my dad’s body being rolled away on a gurney out of his bedroom door. It was horrible. Ugly. Deflating.
But I serve a sovereign God who is good, and able, and in control. And because He is who He is, my dad’s death was not the end. It was just the end of a season.
Knowing Christ as Lord and Savior is the essence of seeing the beauty in every season. So many times you hear a person say in the loss of people and things – my life just ended. For those who follow Christ they realize it is not the end of life, it is just the end of a season. Knowing Jesus means there is always more ahead for me. It may not all be good, but it will not all be bad. He has a plan and a purpose in every season.
To know my dad now has life after life. To know my dad can walk. To know my dad is healed. To know my sovereign God is a savior and a giver of life – He makes everything beautiful in its time. It was my dad’s time. That’s beautiful. Amazing. Encouraging.
“It’s not about me” means that I don’t have to like everything. It means that I may not even agree with the choices or experiences. It’s not about me means that I probably won’t understand most of it, but I can release it because I know that a good God who is able is in control. That much, we understand and that is enough.
So the earth isn’t flat and your life is not perfect, but if you follow Christ, it will be – in time! Everything is beautiful in its time – your salvation – His return – our sanctification – and your sweet release of your incessant need to be perfect. It’s not about me is the simple realization that it is ALL about Him. It is realizing things are so much more beautiful in His time.
So how can you tell if it’s time?
- The question of seasons – Ask yourself if what you are about to do will flourish or cause more frustration in this season. Will it be great for business but bad for
family? Will it be great fun, but bring debt? Maybe it’s not the wrong thing. Maybe it’s just not the right time.
- The question of situation – What’s the good and the bad? Weigh it out. If this comes, what goes? Sometimes the question is not what you ARE going to do as much as it is what you are NOT going to do.
- Questions for the Sovereign – You and I may not understand it all, but we are allowed to ask questions. What is God doing that I can join in with Him? What does the Bible say? Can God bless this decision? How is the Holy Spirit leading?